Thursday, March 10, 2022

3 Years In Indy (& An Announcement)

 I'd be lying if I said I have had this blog in mind in the last 2 years. I have been busy living, and boy have I lived.

2 Years or so ago I was in a rough place, working at a grocery store and moonlighting working on track at IRP. My confidence was shot and I was unable to see the beauty around me.

But today? Well...

This weekend marks 3 years since moving to Indiana, a moment that was as much career motivated as it was personally. People have this attitude that moving is going to change their life overnight. What nobody tells you is, the early years of the process can be hectic, isolating, and lonely. I heard it from everyone I spoke to who also moved here, "I regretted it the first few years, but it got easier."

After three years I feel like I'm just now getting to "Easier." 

I documented the toughness of my transition into a new life in prior posts, and the time that followed has been more of the same; I often feel alienated and scared, I have been a mess since my best friend moved away (friends are hard to come by here), and treating my mental health issues feels like a full time job. But I'm growing tougher, I'm learning how to navigate this strange world that felt so new and scary just a thousand or so days ago. 

My work has become something to be proud of. I have gone from ringing up customers and dealing with bad managers at Meijer to working in racing for the bulk of my income like I always knew I would. Last year, I got to shoot for USAC and Eldora Speedway, dozens of my photos got used by IRP for marketing, and my work for FloSports has paid the bills many times. When I first moved here, I was making $10/hour and was so very scared of losing even that. Now? I take risks. I spend days working as a guide at the IMS Museum too, which is a high honor for me.

It isn't all perfect. I still struggle with anxiety and confidence issues. I am in therapy, have a new psychiatrist, but some wounds can only be healed by time itself- and that's okay. Time is on my side. 

But time. Three years have passed, and every year I ask myself what the biggest lesson was from the time since I moved. I think, as time goes on the biggest lesson is that patience matters. In life, and in work, WAIT FOR YOUR OPPORTUNITY. It will taste so sweet when knowing you waited, whatever it is for.

Unlike last time I posted here, this time I feel optimistic. This time I feel like things'll go my way, I mean how can they not? I'm working so hard and showing so much passion. 

I just have to wait a little longer.


As I travel for work more and more I plan to post photos and stories from my travels. My first of these posts will come right here very soon. I hope you all like what my plans are. 

Friday, July 31, 2020

Discovering Scars & Chasing Racecars

I can't sleep. It's 4AM. Par for the course for me lately.
I saw my Dad for the first time in a year and a half yesterday. It felt good, I'm happy to see he's doing better. Mom's death obviously put a strain on our relationship, but still it wasn't like I meant for that much time to pass, it just did. I couldn't afford a road trip, then all hell broke loose around the world. I became convinced we'd be living out Mad Max by now and it just kinda happened. I was nervous about the visit, however. Probably because I'm at a pretty major crossroads in life.

Since about May or so I've gained the level of self awareness that many were annoyed I hadn't reached years ago. I've also been told it's nearing time that I should find my own place. I'll admit, I've been a pretty horrid roommate. I'm hard to understand, and harder to live with. I'm not mad about it, but I've been brought to the realization that I brought way too much pain with me upon moving here, and put way too much faith in the idea that it would all melt away as I began my life.
Truth be told, the opposite has happened. I've found myself often overwhelmed, consumed by a burning desire to rise above the trauma and reach even a third of my potential. Or at least the potential that others claim they see in me.
It forces me to neglect responsibility and instead cocoon myself in a pair of headphones and hope I find whatever I'm burning for in my 6,000th listen to Kanye West's "Runaway." Of course, that never happens.

My career in auto racing more or less legitimately began in May, and it's just about all that motivates me currently. I won't begin to lie and say that what I do is what I ever imagined myself doing, but I am more than proud to have weekly paystubs with the NHRA's name on them. In more ways than I can count, the feeling of working for them replicates that of my wrestling days when I was with Empire. The work is brutal, the pay won't make me rich, but I am reminded every day I enter the gates that I am in this exclusively for the love of the sport. If I couldn't hack it as a journalist, then by God I am willing to break my body and sacrifice my sanity to prove I belong somewhere in this industry, and that I love it with all my heart. My confidence, though. It just isn't there. I'm constantly job scared for no reason, and all the time doubting myself and whether I'll ever get where I want to be.

So yeah. About sacrificing my sanity. I spend a lot of time wishing I could makeup for my lack of kindness in the time after Mom died. I lie awake and quietly cry what is now becoming multiple times a week wishing I could reach out, often to 2 people in particular, and explain what I've since learned about how to treat others, and express my sorrow. But they're gone, and all I have now are the people in my life today.
And I don't believe I've been all that great to them either.

You're seeing a pattern here; My confidence is still just as wrecked as it was the day I woke up hungover 3 years ago and said I needed to change.

So yeah. I'm at a crossroads. I know that I'm on the right track (pun intended) towards making a career for myself in auto racing. However, if I'm ever going to reach that aforementioned potential, professional or personal, it is imperative I work more on healing my heart and soul than before. Because what I've been doing ain't working.

I have faith that things will improve. And I'm more than thankful that my love for what I do, and the incredible people in my life today are carrying me though a strange time.  I promise, I'll heal my heart and get things right soon enough.

Til then, I guess it's time to get some sleep.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Listen to The Pursuit NOW On TuneIn!

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

"You Just Don't Know What Indy Means"

It's May 1st. Despite my best efforts, I have no date to the big dance. As a matter of fact, I don't even have a ticket to go alone if it comes down to it. It's funny, when you're 17 and you can't find a prom date, it only *feels* as if you're missing out on the biggest event in the world. But when that simile becomes reality, and you're missing out on genuinely the biggest event in the world, well, it's a sort of surreal, gut wrenching feeling that you feel half lucky to even get to experience, half flat out miserable for the same reason. My entire social circle in this city, all have business at IMS this raceday. As of now, I don't. Now, I could have one of two attitudes about this. I could stay pissed off and depressed, moping about for the next month, which serves nobody but me. Or I can embrace this feeling. You see, I've been following The 500 long enough to know that much like a dignified lady down south, The Speedway can be cruel and unforgiving just as much as it can rewarding and loving. You have to be patient, respectful, and above all humble. Yes, I know nobody looks at the story of how a media member got to The 500. And why should they? We aren't the stars. But the same principles apply, whether you're competing for a chance to kiss the bricks, or whether you're competing for a slightly better paying job interviewing the driver that finishes in 12th. I've seen enough unrequited passion and heartbreak surrounding The 500 to know that sometimes a person's love for this place can be agonizingly one sided. But this event has become a major part of my life, the personification of my American dream. As weird as it sounds, I cannot imagine my life taking any path different to the one that has led me so close, yet so far away from finally making my own small mark. It was 1999, the first time I vividly remember watching The 500. My Dad and I were both cheering on Robby Gordon, half because we knew him from driving stock cars for Felix Sabates, half because he had a hell of a run going. Four year old me didn't know what the split was, didn't care that this period was one many considered a dark age for The 500. All I knew was that this was the biggest event in the world, and the guy I picked to win was knocking on the door. Then my Dad yelled out, "Aw, son of a bitch!" Robby had to stop for fuel. He surrendered the race to Kenny Brack. Brack won. As the kids today say, I was shook. Flash forward to 2002. My Grandmother, Marylin, had lost her battle with cancer just 3 weeks prior. When you're 7 years old and you lose a close relative, you don't understand the emotions you're feeling. I remember it was a very somber day, but for some reason The 500 broadcast was an escape for my parents and I. If only for a few hours, we forgot our troubles. The controversial finish inspired a more innocent household argument than in months prior. De Ferran, Rice, Wheldon, Hornish, and Franchitti would reign supreme in subsequent years. I watched,some years more interested than others. It happens as you grow up. But then 2008 came. The Split was over and DanicaMania was running just as wild as 3 years prior. She was hot off her win in Japan and was hot off the shelves in Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue. My friends, especially the boys, were crazy for her. So much so that I had a pocket of about a dozen 7th grade nerds invested in the run up to The 500. It was the first time I had experienced the social element of Indy, discovering that this race is one big, month long excuse to party. But in the race, Sarah Fisher tangled with Tony Kanaan. I was a big TK fan as a kid, going back to his days in CART. So I was mad that my driver was taken out. ABC took an interview with Sarah after the crash that reduced me to a blubbering mess. Still to this day, it's hard to watch. And that's when it hit me, just how important this race is to all who play a part. 2011. I'm 16, a kid who has no sense of identity. We were on a family vacation and I convinced my Mom to drop me off at The 500. I had a GA ticket in my hand and nothing else. For the first time, I could feel it. The overwhelming sense of passion, pure joy, and celebration. When Jim Nabors sang "Back Home Again," tears filled my eyes. This was Indy. I knew from that moment I had to some day be part of the magic. 2015 Comes, and I'm 20 years old. I had been to back to back races, Barber and the Indy GP. Being at IMS always has an almost religious, cathredal feeling to it, but this May was different. My Mom was sick, and doctors couldn't figure out what was wrong. She spent most of May in the hospital, and the GP trip became more about that 2002-esque escape. I remember, on the drive back somehow my Dad and I got to discussing Patrick Swayze. I remember having the passing theory that Mom had pancreatic cancer too. Weekend of The 500 comes, and the race is almost an afterthought. While I still had that "Christmas morning" feeling, it felt empty. Dad and I still enjoyed the race, even if we both awkwardly avoided talking about the elephant in the room. It was the last happy day I'd have for a long time. A few Days later, we got the news. My fleeting guess was right. Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. A year goes by. Mom left us in March. My heart is shattered. It is zero exaggeration when I say wanting to see the 100th running is what kept me going. For some silly reason, I was fixated on this race. It felt like, for both my Dad and I, that doing this thing that we had done every year for 20+ years would make life feel "normal" again, even if just for a day. Thankfully it was just the two of us at home, and we put on the race as we had every season, neither admitting out loud the added gravity that this day held. So we enjoyed the race, waxing nostalgic for years when it wasn't just us. We talked racing, our favorite memories and stories from 500s past. It was cathartic. It was healing. It didn't matter who won that day, even though a star was born. What mattered was we did as Mom would have wanted and just enjoyed the race. When the day was over, I cried. Hell, I'm tearing up now just thinking about it. On that day, it wasn't just a race. It was passion, it was family, it was love. I had never experienced tears of joy before, but the notion that it was now okay to try moving on moved me. 2017 Comes, I'm now 22. I'm on the heels of a failed relationship that has me in another identity crisis, and I've just a month prior covered my first IndyCar race as a journalist. I didn't know yet, but this period would transform my life. At this point, I'm a heavy drinker and very much still very much grieving over my Mom. The two are related. I convinced my Dad to go. The race fell on the same date of Mom's diagnosis 2 years prior. I didn't want him to dwell on it. If I were able to bottle up how I felt that day, my thirst for life would be unquenchable. The interaction between my Dad and I, it was like I was his small child again. It didn't matter that I was 22, the look on his face watching me was like that of a parent watching their 6 year old at Disney World. The fact we were able to laugh and experience so much joy on a date laced with so much pain made me feel invincible. A year later, my brother and his wife joined the fun. Now I can say the whole family, even Mom watching with us at home so many years, has felt the magic of Indy. I'm 24 now. I wouldn't exactly say I feel like an adult, but every May I feel like a kid again. The sport of IndyCar racing has transformed my life. The friends I have made gave me a renewed sense of purpose on the other side of tragedy. They gave me motivation to move to Indianapolis, they inspire me to better myself, professionally and personally. My love for the Indy 500 pulled me through my most morose, and led me to the people in my life who have brought out the very best in me. In July, I'll be one year alcohol free, it seems I'm dipping my toes into my first relationship of my 20s, and overall I've learned to embrace and love who I am thanks to it all. Yeah, racecars are pretty and the stories going in can be riveting. But to me, The Indianapolis 500 Mile Race is a celebration of life, it's the celebration of the ties that forge an unbreakable bond between friends and family. Indeed it is "A human struggle against all odds," as Paul Page once said. It brings strangers together, it brings family closer. It was Al Unser Jr. in 1992 who said "You just don't know what Indy means," and he's right. It means something different to winners as to losers, fans to drivers, media to mechanics. To me, individually, after all it's done for me, Indy is life. It's hard to be humble when you love something so much that you just want to dive in and make your mark. I've worked very hard, both in cleaning my life up, and in my media career. I feel like I'm ready. To find out maybe I'm not, well it sucks. It's hard for me to think about sitting on the sidelines this year, watching probably on the mound in turn 2 like I did 8 years ago. But if it means that one day, I'll be rewarded, that I'll get to reciprocate the love I have for IMS, I can do it. I guess, until I get there I'll just have a little extra fun along the way.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Pursuit: Debut Edition

The first episode of my podcast (all apologies to Bob Varsha, who was on what ended up being a test episode last year) is with my former local TV cohost Bill Bolen.
It's more of a "getting to know you" type episode for you, the listener, to get to hear a bit of my personality come through.
I hope you enjoy it.

The Pursuit: Bill Bolen (Soundcloud link)

Saturday, December 29, 2018

2018 In 5 (Non-Racing) Photos

Another year has come to a close. For better, but more often worse, 2018 was a busy year for me.
My attempts to advance my career in media are well documented, both here and on Twitter, so I instead chose for my photo essay to sum up 2018 a more personal collection of pictures.
(A piece with some racing related photos will appear tomorrow.)

So instead, enjoy the 5 most important photos of my 2018, in order.

1. In March, I purchased a car that wasn't exactly a dream car, but definitely the most fun car I've ever driven, my 1993 Miata. It's cheap on gas and fun as hell with the top down. I had wanted a Miata since I was 8 and started out with one in GranTurismo 3.

2. In Late July,  while my friends were all in Ohio for the IndyCar race that sucked to have to miss, I was reviving my alter ego, Lucas Lazarus after a 15 month hiatus from wrestling. It was supposed to be the start of a run at EWA in Chattanooga, but things just weren't meant to be.
In this photo I'm giving myself the "I'm a Star" speech from Boogie Nights.

3. Early October. Sometimes in life you make friends with someone who changes your life, someone who actually makes you want to be happy. I've been fortunate to meet many friends like that in the last 2 years. My friend Derrick (Still don't know his last name) came into my life in May, and he's been a constant source of inspiration and support since.
Here he is, me following him through the streets of Chattanooga at about 3AM.

4. Late October. My first published piece in the college newspaper. It would end up being my only published feature. The excitement of seeing my work in print on my birthday was divine. Even if the headline wasn't the one I had written.
To get to redeem myself for my poor quality of work 2 years prior was the best feeling in the world.

5. December. The end of the road. The last few weeks of my last semester, I had resigned from any and all social activity between classes to instead walk the lake behind the college. It was tranquil, the closest thing I've had to therapy in 8 years. This photo was taken on the final day of the semester. What an emotional rollercoaster it was.

So that's it. 5 Of the most important photos of 2018.
2019 Promises a new life, a new world of sorts. Let's see where it takes me.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

A Happy Ending (For Once)

It's 5:40 AM on a Wednesday. I have work soon, but I've been awake for 22 hours now with no sign of stopping. I'm wired. I'm talking, y'know, the kind of wired where you're so tired you just wanna keep going until you crash harder than J.R. Hildebrand on the last lap at Indy. (What? Too cheap?)

I must apologize for not updating this blog much this year. As much as I wanted 2018 to be defined by my pursuit of a career in racing media, twists and turns took me to places I never imagined, and thus, this website took a backseat.

Anyway, I'm also happy, coupled with being wired. Sure, I failed history class and I got shot down in asking for a date earlier in the night, but I'm still happy. After all, I'm curled up in my finest sweatpants, listening to my favorite podcast (83 Weeks). I've made it through another year, almost. 2018 is drawing to a close and I can't help but be reflective.

The year started with me alone, babysitting my friend's cats with nothing but a futon, a Hawaiian pizza, and a space heater in the room with me. I didn't even know midnight had passed until 6 minutes into the new year. I fell asleep 20 minutes later and began my 2018 at about 4 in the afternoon.
I was staying at a friend's house, having just quit my job after a lonely, dreadful holiday season. I had no idea what would be next. All I really cared about was fixing things with my Dad and getting away from drinking as much as I could.

The plan was to hit St. Pete in March, try to work the IndyCar date as independent media like I sometimes do. However, I ended up being unemployed for almost 3 months. Here's where the hellride began.

I found myself working 2 jobs in March. You see, moving back home to Chattanooga crushed me. I had moved to Dayton, OH the previous summer to run from the embarassment of my handling of Mom's death and a failed relationship. I thought I was free, but home came calling. My goal was to move to Indianapolis to not only be closer to the racing business, but to be around friends in the midwest who inspire me. It's good to have positive influences, after all.

So I worked away, worked my ass off to be honest. The local zoo by day, janky hotel by night. (And boy do I mean janky) The hotel job ended after almost being assaulted by an unwanted guest in the lobby. Wanting to get the hell out after that and the denied request off for The 500, I lied, told them I was already moving to Indy when I was just making my annual Memorial Day visit. I'll do anything just to go to The 500. Sorry, Christina.

After attending The 500, this time with the entire Caylor family, I stayed with my Dad who was on assignment in Kentucky for 3 weeks. I had a few job interviews in Indy, and it looked like I'd be a Hoosier in no time. But the opportunities fell through. My last gasp was an interview at a Toyota dealer in Avon. I felt I had the job in the bag, at least until they asked if I had any speeding tickets.
It wasn't all bad, though. I got to hit a few bars with my friend Chris and feel the freedom of blasting down I75 in Ohio with rain pouring while "I Miss You" by Blink-182 blares over my '93 Miata factory speakers.

By the time summer came, I was miserable. While my management at the zoo are some of the kindest people you could work for, the low pay and painfully long, hot days meant I was confined to a fryer 6 days a week while the world passed me by. I never heard or even knew what the #1 song this year was. if I had to guess I'd say it's that "Keke, do ya love me..." song. But I haven't actually heard it.

Late July came and I was gutted. I missed the race at Mid-Ohio after a summer of financial setbacks .(Funding race trips is tough yo)
It was a beneficial experience last year and I was looking forward to it, but it wasn't meant to be. My friend Pat told me, "There will be other races," and I sure hope so.

What did work out was my return to college. I had dropped out in 2017, in equal parts due to my aforementioned Mother's death  and failed relationship, which were the 2 contributing factors to my obscene alcohol problem. Simply put, I got too drunk and too weepy, and with no Mother to cry to, I called the wrong person and poured my heart out. Drinkin's bad, kids.
The ensuing fight (we're close friends now so it's okay) left me so humiliated and hurt that a quasi-intervention from my English professor made me realize I should try getting help before ruining my GPA. (That incident, by the way, is the sole reason I'm doing things like this blog or anything in racing. Blessing in disguise.)

So I came back, a little heavier and sans afro, but a whole lot more confident. I had my final drink on August 17 and haven't looked back.
I'll be honest, I've been pretty well distracted from racing this semester. I know who all the Champions are and whatnot, but finding out how they got there will keep me busy this offseason.

The semester went well, I suppose. I got a few pieces published in the college newspaper, and I was veey happy to redeem myself for the poor work I had done there at the height of my drinking problem. The highlight of the semester would have to be when my math professor showed me my grades and said, "You'll probably finish with a C."
So I studied harder than I have in my life to bring my grade up. I made up every spare point that I could, did my homework twice over to make sure I "got it." I left the final knowing I'd done everything I could. I just hoped it was good enough.
On the final, he botched a problem and gave us no correct option for the answer. For our trouble, he gave us all that one for free. The one point from that free problem, that I KNOW I'd have missed, was enough to bump me to a B.
Ugh, What A Rush.

But now, it's almost over. Christmas is looming and for the first time in years, I'm okay. I'm better now. You'll see what I mean. I'm happy with life as it unfolded this year, and with what's on the horizon for next year.
In 2 month's time, I'll be in Indianapolis. One of the best friends I could have is bringing me to town and I can't wait to share those stories with you.
So yeah, it's a happy ending, for once.

As far as this website goes, I'm turning into a mix. Some personal/photography stuff. But still mostly racing, when I can.

But what have I learned this year?
The biggest thing I've learned is that "Better" isn't akin to "Happily Ever After." It isn't a destination. I foolishly believed I'd have some big Don Draper moment of clarity, when in reality, I'm just slowly becoming comfortable in my new skin.
"Better" is a series of improvements and challenges that never ends. But it can strengthen you, as long as you take the challenge of improvement head on.
You can always do Better. So Be Better.

Or to steal from Jeff Krosnoff, Stay Hungry.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year, everyone. Thanks for your support.